Patients' Rights and Informed Consent
In March 1997, the Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry issued a Consumer Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. These guidelines were designed to help establish a stronger relationship of trust among consumers, health care professionals, health care institutions, and health plans by helping to sort out the shared responsibilities of each of these participants and ensure quality of care. Many health plans have adopted these general principles. They include the following:
1. Information Disclosure
You have the right to receive accurate and easily understood information about your health plan, health care professionals, and health care facilities. If you speak another language, have a physical or mental disability, or just don't understand something, assistance will be provided so you can make informed health care decisions.
2. Choice of Providers and Plans
You have the right to a choice of health care providers that is sufficient to provide you with access to appropriate high-quality health care.
3. Access to Emergency Services
If you have severe pain, an injury, or sudden illness that convinces you that your health is in serious jeopardy, you have the right to receive screening and stabilization emergency services whenever and wherever needed, without prior authorization or financial penalty.
4. Participation in Treatment Decisions
You have the right to know all your treatment options and to participate in decisions about your care. Parents, guardians, family members, or other individuals that you designate can represent you if you cannot make your own decisions.
5. Respect and Nondiscrimination
You have a right to considerate, respectful, and nondiscriminatory care from your doctors, health plan representatives, and other health care providers.
6. Confidentiality of Health Information
You have the right to talk in confidence with health care providers and to have your health care information protected. You also have the right to review and copy your own medical record and request that your physician amend your record if it is not accurate, relevant, or complete.
7. Complaints and Appeals
You have the right to a fair, fast, and objective review of any compliant you have against your health plan, doctors, hospitals, or other health care personnel. This includes complaints about waiting times, operating hours, the conduct of health care personnel, and the adequacy of health care facilities.
As mentioned above, good communication is essential between a doctor and a patient. One way to make sure accurate and complete information is communicated to a patient is through a system called informed consent. This means that before any type of procedure or treatment is done, you and your doctor have discussed, and you have a complete understanding of, the following:
• The diagnosis of your condition, if known
• The nature and purpose of the treatment or procedure
• The risks and benefits of the treatment or procedure
• Other treatments that may be available and their risks and benefits
• The risks and benefits of not receiving the treatment or procedure
In order to ensure that you understand all of this information, your doctor will ask you to sign a document that states you have discussed the treatment or procedure, that you understand what will be done, and that you are fully aware of the risks and benefits. Informed consent is not only designed to protect physicians, but ensures that patients have received all the information they need to make informed decisions about their medical care. Remember, informed consent is a legal requirement. So before you receive any treatment or procedure, make sure you sign a document that clearly explains what services you will be receiving.
Making the Right Choice
Surgery is almost always an option (except for certain neurological conditions that require urgent surgical attention). Therefore, it's important that you take careful consideration when choosing a spine specialist. Be sure you choose someone you can trust and communicate with. It will help make your experience with the physician more positive.